As a mum, teacher and a member of SLT, Nadine jokes she’s her ‘own worst enemy’. She shares how because teaching is not just a job but a way of life, we need to be kind to ourselves.
People often tell me that I need to slow down, they ask how I manage to do so much in my day and my reply is always ‘I’m my own worst enemy’. It’s said with kindness and somewhat in jest, however it’s also incredibly true. As a full time class teaching, member of SLT and single parent life is very busy for most hours of the day. At the end of a long day I head to a meeting and drink copious amounts of coffee in a bid to keep my eyes open. At 2.30 on a Friday afternoon I stand up during assembly as sitting down in a warm room for 30 mins at the end of a long week is an open opportunity for me to slip into dreamland. By the end of term I am often on my knees and in serious need of more than 5 hours sleep a night but I keep going.
I’ve know many amazing teachers throughout my career and the main trait that I’ve noticed in each and every one is that teaching is not a job. In many cases it’s not even thought of as a career. It’s a way of life.
Teachers never switch off.
When you do the weekly shopping and the supermarket happens to have a sale on you can’t help but sneak a couple of things into the trolley under the guise of “I need it for school.” My own family now roll their eyes at me and trudge on, it’s become the norm that even nipping out for bread and milk becomes a school supplies trip.
When you go out with your family for a day and find a little gem that you never knew existed before, in the back of your mind is the thought “oooh wouldn’t this be a great setting for a school trip”. I wonder if they accept class visitors? I’ll pick up a leaflet on the way out.” I’ve lost count of how many times this has happened to me and then unsurprisingly, within a short amount of time I’ve arranged a school visit to this fantastic venue.
At night when you’re flicking through social media for a quick check of Aunt Dorris’ holiday snaps you stumble across a thread that’s discussing the latest Ofsted alterations and find an hour has disappeared while you catch up on the most recent changes. A few screenshots are clicked with the thought of “I’ll read into that a bit more when I get the chance” and suddenly your phone gets filled up with school related images.
While arranging your child’s birthday party and decide that the best place to get ideas is Pinterest. A board is created, you begin collecting all those lovely images together when you stumble across a wall display idea. Following the link you find another great idea that you hadn’t thought of before. Half an hour later you’ve become completely absorbed in school related wall displays and signage, you’ve created yet another teacher Pinterest board about children’s book corners and you have an almost fully formed plan in the back of your mind of the changes you want to make in your classroom.
You’re child has gone up a reading level and you want to buy them a book to say well done. What a treat, a trip to the book shop! The day is planned, time is set aside, after football but before ballet, that precious 2 hour window is now going to be spent in a place where teacher dreams come true… Waterstones. Your children are ambling through the aisles, not sure where to start looking all the while you’ve set up camp in the children’s history section because you’ve a new topic starting next half term and could do with a few great texts to use. After an hour your children have chosen their favourite books, brought them to you and are now waiting for you to finish perusing. You take your pile of new books off to the till and notice that your son has chosen a title which’d be great for a whole class end of the day read, “I wonder if he’ll notice that I’ve borrowed it? After he’s read it of course.”
In the Summer holiday you’re heading off to a carefully planned holiday, a time for a bit of sun, read some great books, play in the pool with your own gremlins but stuffed in the bottom of the large family suitcase, hidden between the shoes so no one notices it, is the class Ted. Wouldn’t it be great to get a few pictures of travelling ted for his photo album? The class would love that. It falls out of your brain until the last day of the holiday, when suddenly you remember this sneaky plan so off you go around the hotel complex with travelling Ted and your phone, ready to snap images of Ted by the pool, on the crazy golf course, lounging on the beach and many more places. Your own family are so used to this happening now that they don’t bother coming with you. Instead you park them in a central location with a fruity drink and they watch their dear, slightly excited parent nip from here to there, taking photographs of a teddy!
If you consider how much time is taken up thinking about school events when you’re not at school, it’s hardly surprising that teachers are their own worst enemy. They quite literally never stop, never turn off their brains, never stop thinking about school. Team this with the actual nitty-gritty of daily teaching, planning and assessment and yes, by the end of term we’re all on our knees.
So on those days when you’re feeling under the weather, on the weekends when you’re having time to recharge your batteries by visiting friends and family, try not to feel too guilty. You work hard every day of the year so please be kind to yourself.